Roger Thayer Stone Center For Latin American Studies

Tulane University

Alvaro Villela Exhibit: Human Nature in Raso da Catarina

December 3rd, 2009 - December 30th, 2009
Monday - Friday, 10:00 AM - 4:00 PM
10:00 AM - 4:00 PM

Location
Jazz & Heritage Gallery
1205 North Rampart St
New Orleans, LA 70116

PhotoNola: An Annual Celebration of Photography in New Orleans

Opening: Thursday, Dec 3, 6-8 pm

Human Nature in Raso da Catarina

The first I ever heard about Raso da Catarina was a story of desert, sand and thorn forest, a wilderness without water or mercy. In November 2005 I flew over it by helicopter as a guest of IBAMA, the national environmental protection agency. Seen from the air, the mostly leaden landscape with swathes of red sand was gut-wrenching. As I gazed down at the parched and contorted vastness of this sliver of the heartlands of Northeast Brazil, I was in no doubt why its climate is officially classified as semi-arid, or almost desert: it really was death valley down there.

In October 2006, once CHESF had approved the project for the book, I went to Paulo Afonso to set up the logistics required for the challenge of entering Raso da Catarina. I had to tackle many difficulties, such as finding an experienced guide. Even locating a four-wheel-drive vehicle was harder than expected. It took two months to prepare the expedition, including the search for people and information sources that could reveal the secrets guarded by the place Guimarães Rosa called ‘€œthe worst desert there is, a wasteland from hell‘€ (in Grande Sertão: Veredas, referring to the fictional Liso do Sussuarão).

Our first sortie into the daunting Raso da Catarina took place in January 2007. Pedro was our guide, driver, cook and factotum. Better known as a farmer, Pedro is a retired employee of CHESF and a connoisseur of the trails and byways that lead into this region, the harshest in the sertão, a godforsaken outback where a goat will often climb on another goat‘€™s back to reach something edible.

Daytime temperatures in the thornbush- and cactus-covered steppe are never less than 40C (104F). Even the teju, a large lizard that loves heat, takes cover in the shade of the desiccated amburana or burrows down into the hot sand until it finds a little humidity, emerging only at night when the temperature falls, as in any desert, to about 15C (60F).

But this eerie place is a paradise for the Pankararé. The gateway to Raso da Catarina is Brejo do Burgo, a village of some 500 Pankararé families in the most humid part of the Indian reservation. They came here after whites evicted them from the banks of the São Francisco. When a water source was discovered at Brejo and the indigenous land was demarcated, many Pankararé who had become acculturated to white society decided to return and settle in the region. While acculturation remains evident, they try to continue preserving their ancestral customs. Rites performed at the sacred Amaro Stone include dancing the Toré and Praiá in adoration of the ‘€œEnchanted‘€, tiny dark-skinned creatures who protect nature. These dances are the acme of indigenous tradition and a cornerstone of the tribe‘€™s cultural identity.

But we found the essence of life in Raso da Catarina at Baixa do Chico, an even smaller and poorer village than Brejo. Here we met Lino, son of the patriarch Saturnino, and his family of some 50 Pankararé. Although Baixa do Chico is the only inhabited place in Raso da Catarina, it‘€™s hardly what you would call an oasis. Confronted by the dusty, scrubby scenery, humble dwellings, desolate church, and expressions of hardship and distrust on local faces, we could easily imagine ourselves back in some past century if it had not been for two pairs of Havaianas rubber sandals and the threadbare jeans worn by one of the headscarved women. But that was only our first impression. The once unworldly peasants of Baixa do Chico have been changed for ever by the two daily hours of television to which they are submitted, quite happily it must be said. A diesel generator supplies enough electricity to power the only TV set in the village from 6-8 p.m. The same generator also drives the pump that pipes water from a 250-meter well to all nine homes in the village.

Over the ensuing months I got to the know the Pankararé well, not least thanks to a productive mutual learning process that included talking about my photographs and holding workshops for children and adults to teach them photography.

Humankind‘€™s immense capacity to survive and be happy is put to the test in these parts. Everything points to the impossibility of living here, but the children‘€™s delightful hubbub as they play the most innocent games, leisurely conversations in the shade of a big tree, partying when a goat is killed to feed a family or grilled armadillo is prepared, all this made me see the minimalism of life in the sertão. A little is a lot: that‘€™s the essence of life in Raso da Catarina.

Region of fables and fairy tales to which children listen in awe, territory of wild horses, magical beings and animals reputed extinct, Raso da Catarina is also famous as Lampião‘€™s hiding-place and is said to bear the name of Baroness Catarina, who hid a treasure there, lost her way, and died of thirst. So the region is named for a woman, like an American hurricane.

Once upon a time even Petrobras was interested in Raso da Catarina, surveying the region for oil in the 1960s. The engineers bored holes, used explosives and carved roads everywhere, paving the way for hunters who literally fell upon the local wildlife. In the 1980s Raso da Catarina almost became a nuclear waste disposal site.

The quintessence of the sertão is precisely here in Raso da Catarina, marked by the signs of social banditry led by Lampião and of the messianism spearheaded by Antônio Conselheiro. Time here passes far more slowly. Unlike any nature reserve, Raso da Catarina melds fantasy and reality so closely that they can no longer be distinguished from each other. Headless mules and fire snakes, for example, stalk the territory freely, and shades of rifle-toting cangaceiros spook the mounts of unwary cowhands. Power pylons sprout from the ground like the mandacaru cactus in winter, and high-voltage cables are entwined with the misshapen vegetation. The region sustains more than geographical splendor and endangered wildlife. It is the last refuge for one of the best protected treasures of the sertão, a wealth that neither glitters nor can be touched: the ancestral memories of the sertanejo. It conserves places where an old man‘€™s eyes sparkle when someone says this was once the sea and shells can still be found in the soil. Some remember travelers who lost their way and never returned. A boy squatting at his front door while playing with dry corn cobs tells stories of Lampião‘€™s heroic deeds and stratagems for outwitting the government troops. There is a grain of truth in all these tales, because solitude makes fantasy a haven.

- Alvaro Villela

Alvaro Villela is a Brazilian photographer who lives in Salvador, Bahia.
Photo courtesy of the artist.

Location:

Jazz & Heritage Gallery
1205 North Rampart St
New Orleans, LA 70116
10 am – 4 pm, Mon – Fri
504-558-6100

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Info Session: Summer FLAS Fellowships

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The Stone Center will be hosting an information session regarding the 2021 Summer FLAS Fellowship Applications. We will be answering questions regarding the application process, the unique circumstances of COVID-19, and other details.

Feel free to reach out to us with any questions you might have concerning the FLAS fellowship or the application process.

Storytelling in the Language Classroom K-12 Educator Workshop

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This online workshop focuses on books for the Spanish language classroom and highlights interdisciplinary connections for the language, arts and science classrooms. Increase the diversity of books in your school library with these stories from Latin America.

Registration closes on February 12, 2021.

The pandemic this past year has challenged educators in unimaginable ways. Learning environments have been reinvented as teachers constantly struggle to connect with students in meaningful ways. This presentation shows how storytelling can create learning environments that nurture as well as educate.

Storytelling is one of the oldest forms of education, entertainment, and cultural preservation. Given its natural and universal appeal, storytelling can be particularly valuable as an instructional strategy in the language classroom. Attendees will learn how to harness the benefits of storytelling, from creating a more nurturing learning environment that encourages active participation to increasing verbal proficiency among all students.

The presenter, an award-winning children’s books author and teacher, will provide examples from her own books and classroom.

Registration is $10 and includes a copy of a book presented, ready-made lessons to introduce into your teaching, and a certificate of completion. Confirmation of your registration will be sent via email within 2 days to provide access to the Zoom Workshop. Space is limited.

REGISTER TODAY TO RESERVE YOUR SPOT! Deadline to register is February 12, 2021

Sponsored by Tulane University’s Stone Center for Latin American Studies and the Pebbles Center in partnership with the New Orleans Public Library.

For more information, please call 504.865.5164 or email crcrts@tulane.edu.

Laura Anderson Barbata: Transcommunality Exhibit K-12 Educator Orientation

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Join us for an evening with Tom Friel, Coordinator for Interpretation and Public Engagement as he walks through an innovative tool developed to share the Newcomb Art Museum’s latest exhibit, Laura Anderson Barbata: Transcommunality. The program is designed to introduce K-12 educators to Laura Anderson Barbata’s work and focus on specific elements of the exhibit that connect deeply to the K-12 classroom. While the exhibit is open to limited public access, it plans to open to the public and school visits by Fall 2021. Educators from across the country will find this online introduction to Barbata’s work a valuable resource as the virtual exhibit serves as a unique tool for online learning.

Read more about this exhibit from the Newcomb Gallery of Art About the Exhibit page below:

“The process-driven conceptual practices of artist Laura Anderson Barbata (b. 1958, Mexico City, Mexico) engage a wide variety of platforms and geographies. Centered on issues of cultural diversity, ethnography, and sustainability, her work blends political activism, street theater, traditional techniques, and arts education. Since the early 1990s, she has initiated projects with people living in the Amazon of Venezuela, Trinidad and Tobago, Mexico, Norway, and New York. The results from these collaborations range from public processional performances, artist books and handmade paper, textiles, countless garments, and the repatriation of an exploited 19thcentury Mexican woman ‘€” each designed to bring public attention to issues of civil, indigenous, and environmental rights.

In Transcommunality, work from five of Barbata‘€™s previous collaborations across the Americas are presented together for the first time. Though varying in process, tradition, and message, each of these projects emphasize Barbata‘€™s understanding of art as a system of shared practical actions that has the capacity to increase connection. The majority of the works presented are costumed sculptures typically worn by stilt-dancing communities. Through the design and presentation of these sculptures, Barbata fosters a social exchange that activates stilt-dancing‘€™s improvisational magic and world history. At the core of this creative practice is the concept of reciprocity: the balanced exchange of ideas and knowledge.

The events of this past year ‘€” from the uprisings across the country in response to fatal police shootings to the disproportionate impacts of Covid-19 among Black and brown communities to the bitter divisiveness of the 2020 presidential election ‘€” have renewed the urgency for Barbata‘€™s multifaceted practice. In featured projects such as Intervention: Indigo, participants from various backgrounds reckon with the past to address systemic violence and human rights abuses, calling attention to specific instances of social justice. In The Repatriation of Julia Pastrana, Barbata‘€™s efforts critically shift the narratives of human worth and cultural memory. The paper and mask works presented in the show demonstrate the impact of individual and community reciprocity, both intentional and organic. Through her performance partnerships in Trinidad and Tobago, New York, and Oaxaca, represented throughout the museum, onlookers are invited to connect to the traditions of West Africa, the Amazon, Mexico, and the Caribbean and the narratives these costume sculptures reflect on the environment, indigenous cultures, folklore, and religious cosmologies.

By encouraging diverse collaborators to resist homogenization and deploy the creative skills inherent to authentic local expressions and their survival, Barbata promotes the revival of intangible cultural heritage. Transcommunality horizontally values the systems of oral history and folklore, spirituality, and interdisciplinary academic thought that shape Barbata‘€™s engaging creations, celebrating the dignity, creativity, and vibrancy of the human spirit.”

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An Evening with Multi-Award Winning Author Elizabeth Acevedo

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Join us for an evening with Elizabeth Acevedo. Acevedo presents her third book, Clap When You Land, and discusses her writing process and performance background. The discussion will be followed by a reading.

Poet, novelist, and National Poetry Slam Champion, Elizabeth Acevedo was born and raised in New York City, the only daughter of Dominican immigrants. She is the author of Clap When You Land, (Quill Tree Books, 2020); With the Fire On High, (Harper, 2019); the New York Times best-selling and award-winning novel, The Poet X. (HarperCollins, 2018), winner of the 2018 National Book Award for Young Adult Fiction, the 2019 Michael L. Printz Award, and the Carnegie Medal; and the poetry chapbook Beastgirl & Other Origin Myths. (YesYes Books, 2016), a collection of folkloric poems centered on the historical, mythological, gendered and geographic experiences of a first-generation American woman. From the border in the Dominican Republic, to the bustling streets of New York City, Acevedo’s writing celebrates a rich cultural heritage from the island, inherited and adapted by its diaspora, while at the same time rages against its colonial legacies of oppression and exploitation. The beauty and power of much of her work lies at the tensioned crossroads of these competing, yet complementary, desires.

This online program is free and open to the public. It is part of our ongoing series of public engagement programs with Latinx writers that explore Latin America, race, and identity. Read more about Acevedo’s work in this recent article from The Atlantic.

Sponsored by the Stone Center for Latin American Studies and the Newcomb Institute.

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For more information, please email crcrts@tulane.edu or call 504.865.5164.

Global Read Webinar Series Spring 2021

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The Stone Center for Latin American Studies coordinates the annual CLASP Américas Award for Children’s and Young Adult Literature and is excited to collaborate with other world area book awards on this exciting online program. Join us this spring 2021 as we invite award winning authors to join us in an online conversation about social justice, the writing process and an exploration of culture and identity across world regions. This annual Global Read Webinar series invites readers of all ages to join us as we explore books for the K-12 classroom recognized by world area book awards such as the Africana Book Award, the Américas Award, the Freeman Book Award, the Middle East Outreach Council Book Award, and the South Asia Book Award.

Each webinar features a presentation by an award-winning author with discussion on how to incorporate multicultural literature into the classroom. Be sure to join the conversation with our webinar hashtag #2021ReadingAcrossCultures.

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SPRING 2021 SCHEDULE – Read more about the program here.
All webinars are at 7:00 PM EST.

  • January 12 – The Américas Award highlights the 2020 Honor Book, The Moon Within by Aida Salazar
  • February 3 – The Children’s Africana Book Award highlights the 2020 book award winning, Hector by Adrienne Wright
  • March 11 – The Middle East Outreach Award presents 2020 Picture Book award winner, Salma the Syrian Chef by Danny Ramadan, illustrated by Anna Bron
  • April – Freeman Book Award, a project of the National Consortium for Teaching Asia will present a book TBD.
  • May 13 – South Asia Book Award presents The Night Diary by Veera Hiranandani

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All sessions are free and open to the public. All times listed refer to Eastern Standard Time (EST). Sponsored by the Consortium of Latin American Studies Programs, the South Asia National Outreach Consortium, the Middle East Outreach Council, and African Studies Outreach Council, The National Consortium for Teaching about Asia.

Reading Latina Voices Online Book Group for High School Educators

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This spring 2021 we invite all K-12 educators to join us once a month in an online book group. This past year has been a challenging one for everyone but especially K-12 educators. Sign up and join us as we explore the stories of women confronting identity as Latinas in the United States. Tulane University’s Stone Center for Latin American Studies, AfterCLASS and the New Orleans Public Library partner to host this online book group. The books selected are recognized by the Américas Award and focus on the Latina experience. The group begins with the work of award-winning author and poet, Elizabeth Acevedo who will speak in a unique online format on March 23rd presented by Tulane University’s Stone Center for Latin American Studies and Newcomb Institute.

You have the option of registering in two methods:

  • A) $15 includes your own complete set of books for the series mailed to your home;
  • B) Free – you find your own copies of the books at your local library.

REGISTRATION DEADLINE IS JANUARY 29, 2021

Reading Schedule – Thursdays at 6:00 PM CST

  • February 11 – Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo
  • March 18 – The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo
  • April 15 – American Street by Ibi Zoboi
  • May 13 – The Revolution of Evelyn Serrano by Sonia Manzano

Sponsored by AfterCLASS and the Stone Center for Latin American Studies at Tulane University and the New Orleans Public Library.